Did the New York Times suggest John McCain had an affair with a lobbyist? The issue became a moot legal point this week when Vicki Iseman dropped her lawsuit against the newspaper over an article last year that many people -- myself included -- thought bent over backwards to make the suggestion without offering a shred of evidence.
In exchange, the paper agreed to publish an op-ed piece from her lawyers.
Let's the revisionism begin!
In its "Note to Readers" on Friday (also part of the settlement), the Times said:
The article did not state, and The Times did not intend to conclude, that Ms. Iseman had engaged in a romantic affair with Senator McCain or an unethical relationship on behalf of her clients in breach of the public trust.
Let's look at what the article said again:
Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself -- instructing staff members to block the woman's access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.
That was the story's second paragraph.
When the article came out, every major journalism critic and blog covered the story. When the issued died this week, it died quietly, almost as if it didn't matter in the first place.
(h/t: Dan Kennedy)
What's to respond to? The only way a sex scandal ever stays in the news is if Republicans flog it to the media. Since they didn't, interest died out.
But the initial story was important because it showed the sleazy side of lobbying in a way that the media rarely does. And this story further demonstrated that the only sex scandals with any traction are those pushed by RNC talking points and cable news networks.
Granted, many sex scandals are about Republicans, but the firestorms are nonetheless still fed by Republicans. Sen. Craig got hounded out of the Senate for being gay (Democrats tittered while Republicans fulminated nightly), but Sen. Vitter's prostitutes and diapers scandal faded from the news because Vitter's still a valued member of the Republican party.
Regardless of whether Democrats are involved or Republicans are involved, it seems to me that allegations should involve some attribution.
But that's not the issue now. That was the issue then.
The issue here is a journalistic institution printing an unsubstantiated report that McCain's colleagues were CONVINCED he was having an affair, and then the editor of the newspaper saying his institution did not state or conclude that he was having an affair.
He must really think we're stupid.
The firestorm that this story generated was less about politics and lobbying and more about journalistic ethics.
That issue was no less relevant this week than it was last February. The only thing that changed is they had an election.